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Re: GPL's anti-patent stance misses the true opportunity

From: quanta
Subject: Re: GPL's anti-patent stance misses the true opportunity
Date: Mon, 11 Aug 2008 13:41:31 -0700 (PDT)
User-agent: G2/1.0

>Ciaran O'Riordan <>
"quanta" <> writes:

> > While there is no doubt that software patent does stifle innovation,
> Maximising innovation is not the goal of the GPL.

This is kind of ironic, since one of the arguments used by FSF to
against software patent is it impede innovations.

> > Remember the U.S. Patent No. 5,995,745?  For those who don't know what
> > it is, it is the patent granted to Finite State Machine Labs Inc., in
> > which the patent holder allows royalty-free use of the patent when
> > used under the terms of Open RTLinux patent license Version 2, which
> > isGPL-compatible.
> Does GPLv3 dd3 conflict with doing that?

It is licensed under the terms of GPL 2, but you probably know better
about legal terms. Anyway, it isn't the point.

> > Instead of making blanket statements that software patents are
> > evil,
> The technique you mention above doesn't protect us against the dangers of
> software patents.
> Software patents make software development risky, and they particularly
> inhibit the development of useful software - software that is compatible
> with the most popular existing software.

Proprietary software has no use to free software base, patented or
otherwise. Therefore. there is more the reason to make sure the
patents are only available to free software development, licensed in
terms that only hurt proprietary software development.

> The idea of building a pool of patent such as the one you mentioned above
> has been discussed since around 2000, but no one has been able to make it
> work.  One problem is that patents are so expensive to get and enforce.

Instead of filing every technique, patent holder should strategically
file the key ones that have widest uses.

> Another is that the companies that are both friendly to free software and
> already own many patents have usually already signed cross-licence
> agreements promising not to use their patents against the other large patent
> holders (i.e. the people we're trying to protect ourselves against).

However, having a larger portfolio does allow FSF to negotiate terms
to improve software freedom more easily.

> Another problem is that this strategy has zero effect on patent holders who
> do not develop or distribute software (patent trolls).

Maybe it isn't, but that strategy does put roadblocks on small
proprietary software development, before they have chances to grow and
stay proprietary.

> It looked like a nice idea, it was discussed at length by many people who
> care (including the businesses who rely on free software), but it seems
> impractical.

Last time I checked, Wind River and FSMLab are still in business after
announcing the RTLinux licence was announced. Although they are not
strictly relying on Open RTLinux, they sure don't think the free
kernel was undermining their profits enough to stop the project.

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